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Eating out is something my family loves to do. At some points it’s even cheaper to eat out than it is to shop in grocery store, especially if I have coupons.
A problem I have run into though is finding good, healthy options at restaurants. Adults have way more choices in the healthy department than kids do. While it might be a healthier option to order off the adult menu, it’s not very economical.
McDonald’s has recently jumped on this bandwagon (as much as it could) with it’s new Happy Meals. Instead of just offering apples, each kids meal now comes with a smaller size fry and apples. Which is a good start, but I’d still like to see more improvements.
I recently was watching the news and I was happy to see a newscast about Chicago area restaurants that are now trying to expand their menu outside of chicken nuggets and fries.
After reading this article and a few others I have a few tips I have learned from them (along with a few of my own). I think this applies not only to kids, but adults as well….
- Skip the Soda. Go for milk or water. Since my youngest is lactose intolerant -we usually go for cranberry or apple juice. i on the other hand usually go for the soda…bad mommy.
- Try to limit bread on the table. This one is a tough one for me. I love bread! I have made a conscious effort to skip bread lately. It has been painful!
- Bring your own healthy sides. Grab single serve grapes or carrots. These will be good substitutes for fries. I will try and get my 5 year old to eat these as her appetizer. Still working on the older two…
- Opt for tomato sauce based foods or non-fried. Chicken nuggets are usually a pale imitation of actual chicken and the mac n cheese MOST restaurants serve is actually souped up versions of the $.49 box of Kraft dinner you can get at the store.
- Keep portion sizes ‘kid size’. A LOT of places serve ‘kid sizes’ that are actually adult sizes. It overwhelms a kid, makes them feel like they have to eat more or to just not want to eat at all. We are huge proponents of “eat half, bring the rest home”. I am not a huge leftovers kind of gal but luckily my kids and husband are, so we can stretch a restaurant meal out a few days sometime.
- READ the menu and special order! I always had at least one child at any given time being picky about something. It seems their tastes change weekly. I have learned that special ordering is my friend. I even do it for myself now. Yes, we are that family that always gets the exasperated look from the waitress. Always read the menu. Healthier stuff is ALWAYS in the back of the menu and check for combo meals. Combo meals usually are more cost effective and offer healthier choices. I love Panera for this very reason. How proud am I that my son always asks for an apple at Panera, not chips or bread.
These are the articles I found, read more tips and tricks: Guide to Dining Out , Great printables and a great guide to make better choices at restaurants: Healthy Fast Foods
If all else fails and you just can’t get your kid to make good choices, stay home! Make restaurant style food at home. I found an awesome article on Parents Magazine that has restaurant style recipes you can make at home! Make Restaurant Favorites at Home
Ok, now your turn. Got any tips on how to stay healthy while eating out?